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INTERVIEW – Corey Glover, Living Colour – November 2013

| 19 November 2013 | Reply

INTERVIEW – Corey Glover, Living Colour – November 2013
By Shane Pinnegar

Living Colour Corey Glover 01
Currently touring America for the 25th anniversary of their debut album Vivid, singer Corey Glover says that Living Colour are looking forward to bringing some brand new tunes Down Under for their tour as part of the massive Soundwave Festival in February and March 2014.

Living Colour - Vivid CD

“We’re going into the studio straight after [the U.S. tour],” he said, “so we’ll probably be doing some new stuff out there as well.

“[The tour]’s going really well,” he continues, “better than expected. We’re having a good time. We have a day off today and, you know, it’s been very, very nice. We’ve been doing the [whole] of our first album Vivid and it’s been getting a really good reception.

“I just saw how many bands are on this thing,” he says of Soundwave Festival, “ and it’s gonna be great. Particularly because we haven’t been to Australia in like, 6 or 7 years. And we’re going to places we’ve never been to in Australia as well.”

Like Perth, which pleases us West Aussies a lot.

Living Colour 01

The forthcoming album will be the band’s third since reforming in late 2000, and sixth overall, but Glover insists that the band “absolutely” foster a creative, almost experimental environment in the studio, so it’s too early to predict the direction of the music.

“It would be foolish of me to say what that is, because it may change, and may turn into something else,” he insists. “I know that we want to explore big sounds, and look back and look at the blues, and look forward and see what’s going on with different types of music. We wanna cover the influences that each of us are bringing to the table. So whatever that mix becomes is what that record’s gonna be.

“We’re not searching for something particularly elusive, I think we’re looking to expand the conversation, and using what we have at hand to expand the conversation. You know, I would hope that we have grown since Livid. I think we’ve grown tremendously since then and I hope the music reflects that.”

Living Colour 02

A quarter of a century down the track, Living Colour’s eclectic combination of seemingly diverse styles, including heavy rock and funk with elements of hip hop and jazzy musicianship, remains a favourite with fans not just in America but around the world. Glover puts that loyalty down to the songs, pure and simple.

“I think it’s a testament to good songs, personally,” he states plainly. “A good song is a good song is a good song. And if you enjoy good music, you know, there’s a bunch of bands that keep a following only because they write good songs. Some bands are personality driven – this is not one of them!”

Having said that (and he will say it again before our time is up), or perhaps because of it, the singer is reluctant to single out one song which is representative of Living Colour’s musical style.

“No, not at all. Not in the least!” he insists when I ask him if he can choose one. “Because everything we did was a different statement and a different place in our lives. It’s hard to say which your favourite is – it’s like saying which is your favourite child, you know, which is your favourite pet? It’s hard to do!”

Living Colour 03

Guitarist Vernon Reid formed the band sometime in 1983, fusing free form jazz and had rock elements together in long fluid jams around New York venues, but it wasn’t until Glover joined the band in 1986, and cemented a stable line-up complemented by drummer Will Calhoun and bassist Muzz Skillings, that things started taking off.

Mick Jagger heard the band and took them into the studio to record a demo which got them a record deal to make Vivid, which was a big hit and led to a couple of years touring with the likes of The Rolling Stones – heady stuff for any young band.

“Was it a whirlwind? No, ‘cos we’d been working before we got signed,” he says, “working very, very hard trying to make inroads at least in the New York scene to try and let people know we were around. I got in the band basically in the beginning of ’86, we got a deal in ’87, the record came out in ’88 – so there were a number of years of us just slogging through it, individually even – you know, before I got in the band before Will got in the band, we were all trying to make a living out here doing this, and we were all relatively young at that particular point, early twenties, so to a point, it all worked, and as I said earlier, nothin’ beats a good song!”

Still, Glover concedes that it was a bit of a trip at that time for an unsigned band to be hanging out and recording demos with the singer of the biggest band in the world.

“Yeah, to a degree. I mean, to a degree that was all really great and it was a good sign – but when you’re young, you have a lot of confidence in yourself. Of course Mick Jagger should have been interested in the band! Whether he was or not, we thought we ARE good enough. We [just] need somebody to hear it – all that was required was getting somebody to hear it.”

Living Colour Corey Glover 02

And hear it they did – their iconic single Cult Of Personality was picked up by MTV in the early days of the TV station and reached an audience of millions, an option barely available to new bands now that their airwaves are dominated by tweeny pop singers and ‘reality’ shows.

“I think there’s a different dynamic,” Glover says of that shift over the past 25 years. “Because there are people looking for music right now. If you want to find some sort of ‘personality’ you go to MTV, if you’re looking for music it’s everywhere you wanna look. And I think that, as I said, a good song precedes any and all of that.

“If there was a really good song out there,” he continues, “and somebody told you that you had to go check out this band [you would]. I think we had more people found out about the band because of word of mouth – it was fortunate for us that MTV was around, but had we made the same video or a similar video now, it would be on YouTube and people would tell people ‘hey, go check out this video on YouTube.’

“I don’t think we ever let go of that ideal [of writing good songs]. It wasn’t about what we look like to a degree, it was about what we did, and what we said was just as important. And the things that we said were prescient for things now.”

Living Colour 05

No matter how much the band focussed on music over image, and their fans loved them for being playing some of the heaviest riffs and most vibrant, raucous and open minded rock n’ roll of the era, the debate refused to go away: ‘Four black guys should be playing a different kind of music’, their critics insisted.

“Well, there were some people who thought that,” agrees Glover. “We didn’t think that, and our audiences didn’t think that way, I don’t think. I think that we were using what we had at our disposal to express ourselves, and I think that came through more than anything else.

“There are and have been elements of our struggle that had a lot to do with race, that had a lot to do with what people’s expectations of us were. And to say that limits them more than it does us. So we never took that into perspective – we were vitally aware that we were four black guys from New York and from America, and we talked about where we came from, what we did.”

Living Colour Corey Glover 03

Living Colour initially burned very bright and fast – by 1995 they had released three albums, one EP of outtakes, and broken up. In hindsight, was it too much too fast?

“Hmm.” Glover pauses to ponder before answering, “I dunno about too fast, but it was a lot. I think if we weren’t aware of the world that we lived in, then I think it would [have] overwhelmed someone very quickly. But we were – I think we had to be overly aware of places that we were and the things that we were doing.”

The band’s songs often focussed on socially important issues, opening a musical dialogue of sorts between their fans about issues that remain relevant today – ego, homelessness, greed, fatuousness. I ask Glover how he feels as a songwriter when any such song is co-opted for a completely different purpose years later, for instance, Cult Of Personality’s use as WWE wrestler CM Punk’s ring entry theme tune.

“Well, that’s what the song’s about, so it’s sort of ironic, don’t you think?” he chuckles. “And for that reason, that’s why I think it works for CM Punk. Because the song is talking about the price of fame, the price of infamy, which he plays to the hilt, which is sort of a reflection of the world he lives in, and the world that he inhabits and the world that we all inhabit.

“You know,” he elaborates, “that somebody can be a worldwide star based on what you think you know about them, not what you do know about them.”

Glover remains plenty busy during Living Colour’s downtime, having released his latest, crowd funded solo album The Pledge last year, and followed up his love of acting (he co starred in Oliver Stone’s 1986 Vietnam War movie Platoon) with a two year stint playing Judas Iscariot in a U.S. touring production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

“Right now, all I’m concentrating on is Living Colour,” he declares, “[but] if something comes along that works and I want to do it, I will. I’d love to do more acting, I’d love to get to do some more theatre and musical theatre, but right now it’s about Living Colour.”

The 49 year old singer also sits in with Galactic, a New Orleans jazz/funk combo that pulses and vibrates with the musical gumbo at the heart and soul of that city, and which provides him with a very different outlet to Living Colour.

Living Colour 04

“They’re on the road actually with another singer right now,” he explains, “because I’m out here with Living Colour, but that’s a blast, that band – I love being in that band.

“That’s fun – a real, sort of, departure from the intensity [of Living Colour]. It’s a different type of intensity and a different type of mindset, really. If you study some of that New Orleans music – which I did and have and still do – it’s a very interesting thing. It’s sort of like a facet of what we do in Living Colour, and Living Colour is kind of a facet of what Galactic does, so it’s great!”

We have just enough time to quickly ask Glover which album he would choose to sit in on, if he could magically go back in time to any throughout history.

“Hmmmm… mmmmmm… any of them…” he laughs. “I wouldn’t want to be a part of them, just to be a fly on the wall just to see how some of the early Miles Davis records, how they were created and how they were made. [And] I’d love to see, obviously, some of the Beatles records – just to be there and see how they did it!”

Living Colour play Soundwave Festival during February & March 2014


An edited version of this story was first published in X-Press Magazine’s 13 November 2013 issue

Category: Interviews

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